When Sister Nanette Gentile, who served on Hospice Austin’s Operating Board of Directors, told Herb Dyer about an opening on the board in 2011 and said he should consider serving, he turned her down. As Vice President and Chief Operations Officer for Seton Medical Center Hays, he simply didn’t have the time. He thought about it all evening and called her back the next morning to tell her he was interested.
“Basically, she made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Herb laughed. It was all about the service.
Sister Nanette was a nun with the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, an international community of Sisters dedicated to serving the poor. The Order founded Seton Hospital in 1902 and oversaw the hospital until 2014. Serving on Hospice Austin’s board aligned with both Seton’s and Herb’s commitment to caring for the vulnerable and marginalized in our society.
Herb served a combined 9 years on Hospice Austin’s Operating Board and three years on Hospice Austin’s Fund Board. When the current Operating Board of Directors asked him recently if he would consider accepting a position as Hospice Austin’s Interim Executive Director after the resignation of CEO DeSha McLeod, he agreed.
It’s still all about the service.
Herb said that as a kid growing up in Jamaica, he looked for ways to make life more durable for others. He also had a natural leadership antenna – if he didn’t see things going right, he’d jump in. When his mother brought him to Brooklyn at age 11, he was nervous and unsure but worked to regain his confidence, particularly because his dad wasn’t in the picture. He’d always done well in school without a lot of effort, but when he got to the US, students were being taught the abstract “new math.” He made a 59 on a test. His mother advised him that he just needed to change his mind about how he looked at the new math vs. traditional math and prepare more for the next test. When he aced that test, his mom gave him a watch she had already purchased for him. It was a valuable lesson, he said.
“If I work hard and have an open mind about whatever in life, I can achieve it,” he noted. “If you do the right thing, then luck will follow.”
Herb put himself through college by working in the food and nutrition department of a community hospital. Not long after receiving his diploma, he was one of the managers running the department of 80 people.
His mom, a nurse’s aide, was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years later. He was at work, at age 25, when he received a call from a hospital in Manhattan and told that his mother’s health was declining and to come now. He was 30 miles away and it was rush hour. He didn’t make it in time.
It always bothered him that he was not able to say goodbye. That’s part of the reason Hospice Austin’s mission resonates with him now. The primary reason, however, is that Hospice Austin cares for everyone who needs it, regardless of that person’s ability to pay.
“I was raised to believe that our society is a bell curve and there will always be a certain segment of society that can’t do for themselves – it’s not because they’re lazy,” he said. “You help people out. We ran the hospital knowing we have to take care of the poor and vulnerable but also knowing that we have to run it soundly, as a business.”
Herb is a listener who provided valuable insight and was a trusted ear to Marjorie Mulanax, Hospice Austin’s former Executive Director for nearly 30 years. His goal is to continue her legacy of nonprofit excellence. Herb says that what he loves about Hospice Austin is that the organization truly cares about people.
“Hospice Austin doesn’t discriminate between the people who have resources and those who don’t,” he said. “The staff is compassionate, they really want to be here and they care about what they do. Hospice Austin has been here for over 40 years – it’s an amazing organization.”
To learn more about Herb and Hospice Austin’s leadership team, please click here.